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July 27, 2016

Todays leaders are looking at defining their personal brand as an exercise in self-reinventionhelping bolster their leadership identity, and fostering the individual brand. Powerful leaders are already building a personal brand around their area of expertise. It has emerged as a new prerequisite for individuals to position themselves as change agents and serve as catalysts for organizational transformation.

At an organizational level, there are substantial benefits of establishing the chief in-house subject matter experts as thought leaders in industries that boast of a considerable target market and a sizeable workforce. The impact and influence of senior leaders in the companyamplified through robust personal brandingdefinitely helps improve brand recall.

Defining Individual Identity
A personal brand is not solely dependent on self-definition, but on whether that definition is in congruence with others perception of the individual. Leaders have realized that their brand exists, irrespective of whether they are actively trying to promote it or not. Every instance of online activity or interaction inevitably leaves digital footprintsand is leveraged by consumers and competitors to form an opinion about the individual. A basic social media presence will never be enough to ensure positive brand valuehaving an online presence without a definite notion of the kind of image one desires to project might even backfire.

Defining a unique self-image requires a leader to outline a value proposition that is distinct from other products or individuals. Logically, the next step should be to create an authentic and unique voice, leverage personal experience to create significant impact, and constantly refine that image by understanding and addressing what their audienceemployees, prospects, clients, or even industry analystsexpect from the leader.

Emerging Personal Branding Practices
Authenticity is the key to engagement in the digital age. A number of successful entrepreneurs have initiated the process of spontaneously expressing themselves on social media platformsto hold discourses on relevant challenges, voice their opinions, and present innovative solutions. For example, LinkedIn, initially meant to be used as a professional networking platform, has evolved with time and matured into a viable platform to nurture relevant discussions and publish content. Potential clients and employers are also consulting personal platforms such as Facebook to understand an individuals personal brand. It is essential to ensure that the personal brand being advertised is consistent across platforms and embodies what the individual delivers.

It is important to assess the current status of the individuals online personality. Constantly auditing this online personality, by monitoring online presence, can help identify any discrepancies between how an individual wants to be perceived vis--vis peoples perception.

A personal blog stream significantly boosts online visibility, and can be cross-linked with social media profiles. It helps make messaging to ones social circle more relevant and focused, introducing new dimensions to the online persona.

A great exercise in personal branding is also to regularly contribute to the knowledge economy, via long-form thought leadership contentrelevant white papers, articles, and blogs. LinkedIns long-form blogging feature, for example, offers the opportunity to reach out to over 380 million professionals. Business leaders can amass thousands of followers on social media, and therefore, have large readership base. Curating or publishing well-articulated and insightful content on such channels not only reflects the individuals understanding of the industry but also adds immense value to their brand.

Personal Brand: A Leadership Enabler
The process of becoming a market leader through knowledge creation requires careful planning and meticulous execution. Building a personal brand is never a static processit requires evolving and adapting to market changes, peoples expectations, and accommodating an individuals growth in a particular field. The key to ensuring an attractive personal brand is to constantly engage with the audience, increase visibility, and accept feedback. With Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter having emerged as the preferred channels for leadership branding exercisesthe emphasis now is on a consistent and coordinated front. Communication across channels needs to be uniform, bring credibility, and inspire trust.

Raja oversees marketing initiatives for three key businesses at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Energy and Resources. He is involved in the creation of global marketing campaigns and efficient models to drive brand awareness and sales opportunities. His key focus areas include value messaging, branding and visibility, driving thought leadership, and digital transformation initiatives. An alumni of the Tata Group Executive leadership program at the Ross School of Business, he has a Masters in International Relations from India and a Masters in International Business from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at University of Kentucky.


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